The COVID-19 pandemic left many producers and consumers without a marketplace to sell fresh produce and other local goods. The solution for many was to create an online marketplace or a virtual store; however, this is often costly and time intensive.
Food4All, a new resource from the LSU AgCenter, could help ease the burden on Louisiana growers and producers by providing an online sales platform at no cost to the seller.
“I am quite excited to be able to offer our Louisiana growers and producers this web-based resource, as similar websites require a considerable amount of financial investment before any form of transaction is made possible,” said Alessandro Holzapfel, an LSU AgCenter extension associate who is involved with the project. “Having the function and functionality without the price tag is the right step in the right direction as we are entering the ‘new normal’ post-COVID-19 pandemic.”
Farmers as well as market managers can create an account through which they can sell their products to customers that are paying electronically with a credit card.
“Other payment options are available, such as EBT or SNAP benefits, so that farmers market organizers throughout the entire state can continue to offer a variety of payment options to their customers,” Holzapfel said.
Some AgCenter extension agents have already seen what the resource can do.
“This program is really wonderful,” said Mark Wilson, an AgCenter agent in northwestern Louisiana. “I personally can see many of my farmers markets and producers with roadside stands loving this.”
Joe Willis, a New Orleans-area AgCenter agent, has previous experience with online platforms similar to Food4All.
“This type of system is something that is of great interest to many if not most of our urban growers,” he said. “However, I know several are already using a similar platform at a considerable cost. This platform has a lot of options and niceties for the grower and the consumer. If Food4All has a lot of those option as well but is less expensive, then many growers would probably switch.”
When visiting the Food4All site, the user will provide their ZIP code and will see the fresh and local products available in that area. To search for items or to create a seller’s account, visit www.food4all.com.